Bruins

Bruins need to ride Khudobin's hot hand until Rask rights himself

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Bruins need to ride Khudobin's hot hand until Rask rights himself

BRIGHTON -- It took until the Bruins were truly desperate, but Bruce Cassidy finally shook up a goaltending situation badly in need of a change.

The Bruins opted to ride the hot hand with backup Anton Khudobin and he backstopped the first two-game winning streak of the season, turning away 63 of 65 shots in victories at Los Angeles and San Jose. Khudobin has been incredibly strong out of the gate, posting a 5-0-2 record and, amazingly, leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage.

Meanwhile, $7 million man Tuukka Rask has donned the backup ball-cap on the bench and is being given extra time to try and pull his game together.

That’s the story of the season thus far for a Bruins team that hasn’t lost in regulation when Khudobin's in net and hasn’t been able to get on the same page with Rask.

Rask said he understood the situation while talking about it after Monday’s optional practice, and admitted even he would have gone with the red-hot Khudobin Saturday against the Sharks.

“[Khudobin] has played very good hockey in all of the games that he’s played," said Rask, who's 30th in the league in save percentage at .879. "You play a game (like the one Khudobin played against the Kings last Thursday), then I think it’s very reasonable he gets another start based on the way he played, and the way that we played. I had no issues with that. I said in San Jose that if I was the coach then I would have done the same thing.

"I think we’re going to share some playing time here. The way we talked about it before the year, we don’t want any goaltender to sit down for too long. So I think we’re both going to see some action.”

The sentiments sound like those of a good, selfless teammate with his eyes wide open about a situation that clearly hasn’t gone his way, But it also feels a little too even-keeled for someone who's essentially been benched for a couple of games, similar to the lack of strong, visceral emotion Rask has shown when he’s been held out of Bruins-Canadiens games because of his career-long struggles against Montrea. IIt amounts to a monumental shrug of the shoulders, and a breezy lament that the bounces haven’t gone his way.

Rask did admit his subpar numbers this season do reveal some level of struggle, but he certainly didn’t sound like a player consumed with his dreadful .897 save percentage or problematic 3-7-2 record.

“You can’t let it get into your head, and you need to see through the numbers a little bit," he said. "The numbers are numbers, and obviously there’s some truth to them. But they’re not telling the whole story. Even if you’re winning, you don’t want to look at your numbers and say 'I’m playing unbelievable’ when the team is playing unbelievable in front of you while you’re getting the wins and the low scores.

“Either way it goes you have to stay focused with your own thing and what you’re doing, and then just the results will follow. That’s the thing that I think you have to believe in. [The margin for error] has been like that all season, so I just go out there, do my thing and try to keep the team in it while knowing the results will follow.”

Khudobin didn’t practice on Monday after tweaking a lower-body issue in his 36-save performance against the Sharks, and Cassidy said he has yet to make a decision as to who'll play Wednesday in New Jersey.

“Clearly [Khudobin] has played well and we’re contemplating . . . we haven’t made any decisions yet, but that tells you we want to balance it right,” said Cassidy. “But, hey, he’s got the hot hand, so we’ll look into that a little bit more [ahead of Wednesday].”

The hope from this humble hockey writer is that Cassidy continues to ride the hot hand provided Khudobin's healthy and able to play. The Bruins have a grand total of 20 points on the season, and Khudobin has a whopping 12 of them. They need the kind of airtight goaltending they’re currently getting from Khudobin . . . and aren't getting right now from Rask.

And then perhaps we’ll start to see something a little more fiery in the emotion department from Rask, who should be intent on protecting his No. 1 starter’s job with the Bruins and pulling himself out of a “meh” start to the season. It begs the question as to what happened to the guy who infamously fired milk crates on the ice during an epic shootout tirade while he was still a minor-league goaltender in Providence. 

It doesn’t have to be another meltdown, but both the Bruins and Rask need him to revert back to being the dominant franchise goaltender he used to be in order for the B’s to get where they want to go this season. 

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Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

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Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

TORONTO -- Anders Bjork's up-and-down rookie season has come to an end, as the Bruins' left wing underwent left shoulder surgery this week that’s expected to keep him sidelined for the next six months. 

Bjork was knocked out of a Jan. 30 loss to the Anaheim Ducks when Francois Beauchemin caught him with a cross-check to the left arm, but it’s unclear whether he was already playing through some level of shoulder injury prior to that collision. According to the B’s release, the 21-year-old winger “underwent successful left shoulder arthroscopy and labral repair on Tuesday” at Mass General Hospital. Bjork had been spotted around the Garden in recent weeks wearing his left arm in a sling, but it was difficult to guess the severity of the injury based on what looked like a fairly run-of-the-mill hit from Beauchemin. 

The injury and season-ending surgery ends a bit of a lost year for Bjork, who cracked the Opening Night roster and finished with 4r goals and 12 points in 30 games.

He showed the speed and skill required to be a top-6 forward at the NHL level, but also appeared to need more development time when it comes to battle level and adjusting to the physicality level in the pro game. The former Notre Dame star never seemed to fully bounce back from getting steamrolled in the neutral zone by Matt Martin in the middle of November, and ended up spending time in Providence as well prior to his season-ending injury. 

Bjork’s injury certainly doesn’t rule him out completely as a trade asset ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline, but it probably makes him less attractive to NHL teams looking for young, NHL-ready talent that can step into their lineups right now. With Bjork headed for the long-term injured list and Frank Vatrano traded to the Florida Panthers for a third-round pick, that certainly opens the door for both a) a deal to bring on a veteran rental winger ahead of the trade deadline and B) a spot to be opened up in the Bruins organization for Ryan Donato when the Harvard University star, currently at the Olympics, is ready to sign.

Those are both very good things despite the downer news about Bjork, who watched fellow rookies Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen live up to the expectations many had for him.

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Bruins trade Vatrano to Florida for third-round pick

Bruins trade Vatrano to Florida for third-round pick

TORONTO – The Bruins are making more moves well ahead of the Monday trade deadline as they shipped injured winger Frank Vatrano to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2018 third-round pick. 

The trade somewhat eases a crowded roster, essentially gives the B’s a replacement for the third-rounder they sent to the New York Rangers for Nick Holden earlier this week and gives them a solid return on an undrafted college hockey free agent that had fallen a bit this season on the B’s organizational depth chart.

Vatrano had two goals and a minus-3 rating in 25 games with the Bruins this season, but had typically been either a healthy scratch or strictly a bottom-six winger when he had been in the lineup this season. Vatrano, the East Longmeadow, Mass., native who turns 24 next month, had fallen behind Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen on the depth chart as two of the aforementioned three had locked down top-nine roles.

In that respect, it wasn’t much of a surprise to hear Vatrano getting moved as he’d hit a wall in his development with the Bruins after scoring 20 goals in his first 108 career NHL games and lighting up the AHL as a goal-per-game player. Now, Vatrano will get a chance to rekindle that goal-scoring ability with the Panthers and prove that he’s more than the one-dimensional player he appeared to be in three seasons with the B’s.

There was some thinking Vatrano might have served as a trade asset to be utilized in one of the potential deals that the Bruins have cooking for a rental wingers Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash or Thomas Vanek. Instead, general manager Don Sweeney scoops up a solid draft pick asset for a player that was sitting on the bench for the Black and Gold. That's a solid piece of asset management in a trade deadline period that so far is going very well for the GM.

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